What one disparaging senior exec notes as Aimee Lapic’s weakness, in fact, turned out to be her superpower. As the role of CMOs began to demand a mix of creative and analytical skills, over time it became clear she had the bonafides to ascend to the C-suite – namely, as CMO of Pandora. Read on to learn some valuable lesson on believing in yourself and rising to the occasion.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I’m currently the Chief Marketing Officer of Pandora where I lead consumer brand strategy, market positioning, creative services, marketing analytics, performance media and overall marketing for the company. I am also a member of the Cardlytics board of directors.
How did you get to where you are today?
"I follow the path of most interest vs. staying in a specific lane."
It’s always been a mission of mine to only accept and go after roles where I feel certain I can learn a lot. I follow the path of most interest vs. staying in a specific lane. It’s how I stay engaged. I’ve been lucky enough to have a career in management consulting to internet startups in the financial services and online education to the retail space at Gap. I spent 14 years with Banana Republic and Gap in a new, expanded role every 2-3 years. In my last 5 years with Gap, I held both general management positions while acting as the CMO. My first GM role was the ultimate stretch for me- I managed both the global marketing team for Gap’s outlet division of $3B+ while growing the international outlet business of $500MM as the GM. My goal was to stretch myself while doing a role I already loved.
When I had the opportunity to join Pandora, a completely digital app experience vs. omnichannel like Gap/Banana Republic, I jumped at the chance to leverage my experience in data-driven marketing again to stretch myself in a new way.
What pivotal moments have you faced along the way?
Earlier on in my career, I was told by a senior executive that I would never be a CMO because I didn’t have creative agency experience and that I was “too analytical.” It demoralized me at the time, but I quickly decided I wanted to prove him wrong. And along the way, I learned that great marketers depend on data and analysis – not just creativity.
How did you use that demoralizing feedback to propel your career instead of letting it become a barrier?
Frankly, I went to a division within Gap where I knew the analytics would be more valued than the creative agency experience. I started working in the Outlet division and built a marketing strategy/plan based on ROIs. The focus was around proving that marketing investment would drive the business. My team and I turned around a 5-year negative traffic trend and grew the sales and profitability of the business substantially. We invested in ROI positive marketing tactics and made the case to increase marketing spend from $1MM up to $20MM in a short timeframe based on business results.
So, I used the feedback to focus on what I knew would make a difference in the business and built my reputation as a strategic marketer. . . which then, earned me the right to be CMO of Banana Republic + the GM of the eCommerce business a few short years later.
What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?
"...not every day is perfect – it’s ok to make trade-offs."
Women today are realizing they don’t have to be perfect at everything every day and the industry is starting to support that idea and provide opportunities accordingly. In the past, you couldn’t admit to where you were falling short – there was this unwritten rule that you had to juggle work and life/family flawlessly in order to “have it all.” Now, it is much more common to see women in powerful positions noting that it’s ok that not every day is perfect – it’s ok to make trade-offs. Trailblazers is a great example of this movement and shift.
All that said, there still tend to be fundamental differences in business and communication styles between men and women that lead to misunderstandings quite often. Unfortunately, “mansplaining” is a real thing so, a challenge for women today continues to be, how do you stand up for what you believe in and support your team while faced with that dynamic. As more women continue to speak out and supportive men join the cause, that will drive more opportunity across the board.
What advice can you share?
People need to believe in themselves, forgive themselves for not being perfect and do what you love – it sounds trite, but it really does make a difference.
Who helped you in your journey and how did they help shape your thinking?
Former Gap CFO Sabrina Simmons has been a wonderful mentor and thought partner to me throughout the years – she was particularly helpful in talking through the mindset change involved in going from operator to board member. I also regularly tap senior executive colleagues at Levi’s, Gap and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for career advice and speak regularly with my alumni circle from Harvard Business School.
How have you found the right balance between your personal life and career?
"I firmly believe that you can have it all but not all at the same time."
I firmly believe that you can have it all but not all at the same time. On any given day I make that choice. Earlier this week I blocked off a morning to do a field trip with my son. I was fully present at that moment and went into the office after to be fully present at work. Some days I prioritize work and don’t get much time with my kids. I try to map out and schedule all big work and family milestones at least a month out and adjust as necessary. And again, it’s all about forgiveness. Things won’t always be perfect, but that’s ok.
Knowing what you know today, what one thing would you have done differently early in your career?
I would have taken at least a year at some point to do something totally different – traveled around the world on a sailboat perhaps.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?
I love to travel and I love to teach and connect with people. So maybe I’d be traveling the world and teaching English along the way to discover new cultures and meet new people.